By Matthew Coutts
The Toronto Transit Commission’s drug prevention policy does not need to be fixed, despite the recent suspension of a bus driver caught by police with
alcohol in her system, commissioner Adam Giambrone said yesterday.
Mr. Giambrone said a policy put in place at the end of 2008 has already significantly reduced the number of incidences like last week’s, when a bus
was pulled to the side of the road after a passenger called police, fearing the driver was intoxicated.
“Really it has been close to a year since we have had any of these situations,” Mr. Giambrone said. “Clearly none of it is ever acceptable, but
it is interesting, and speaks to our success in many ways.”
On Friday, a police cruiser responding to a passenger complaint pulled the bus to the side of the road, near Dawes Rd. and Danforth Ave., and requested the driver take a sobriety test. She tested above a .05 blood-alcohol level -- high enough to have her licence suspended for 72 hours but not high enough to be charged criminally.
A driver with 21 years experience, reportedly named Margaret Wilson, was suspended following the incident.
“The operator in question is suspended without pay, pending the internal TTC investigation,” said spokesman Danny Nicholson. “The employee is not on the job at this moment.”
The last reported incident of an impaired TTC employee -- a north end driver who was charged after his blood-alcohol level was found to be over three
times the legal limit -- came in June 2008, three months before the TTC’s Fitness for Duty policy was approved.
The policy was sparked by the death of Antonio Almeida, a maintenance workers who was crushed while removing asbestos from a subway station in
2007. Toxicology reports found Almeida, who had recently returned to work after being dismissed for drug-related issues, had been smoking marijuana
during his shift.
Under the policy, testing is done in four circumstances: when applying for a job, after an incident or accident, some time after a drug violation is
discovered and if there is reasonable cause. A random test was proposed but ultimately left out of the policy. Mr. Giambrone said the policy is about
prevention, not catching people in the act.
“I’m not declaring outright success, this is something you always have to be vigilant on. But I think the fact this is one incident and clearly gets
attention, so it’s clearly not like there are unreported incidents, it seems to be working,” said Mr. Giambrone.
In Friday’s incident, the driver was behind the wheel of a Route 20 bus, which departs from Main Street subway station and heads east along Danforth
Ave. She was stopped on Dawes Rd., a short distance from Danforth Ave., along a route taken by the Route 23 bus.
Mr. Giambrone said an internal investigation could end in her being fired.
“If everything checks out as suspected, there is the quite likely possibility there will be termination,” he said, adding the decision could come as early as today, but would not be made public.
“Clearly it is not acceptable. We expect employees to report fit for duty.... We expect when you report, you report able to do your job and that there are no other excuses.”
The incident is another in a string of black mark the TTC has faced recently, including several photographs posted online of sleeping workers
and video of drivers stopping for coffee breaks. An advisory committee has been established targeted on fixing the
commission’s public relation woes. -- National Post
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